Monday, December 17, 2012

Well that lasted all of four minutes

So I guess that 2:00pm press conference is to announce (via Danny Knobler) that the Astros have signed Carlos Pena on a 1-year/$2.9m incentive-laden deal that could be worth up to $4.3m.

Pena, 34, will shuffle between 1B and DH.

In parts of 12 major-league seasons (1386 games, 5502 PAs), Pena has a .234/.350/.472 slash line, with 1474 strikeouts - a 26.8% strikeout rate. Pena broke out in 2007, hitting .282/.411/.627 for Tampa Bay, with 46 homers - and he would hit 70 homers over the course of 2008-2009.

That said, he's had batting averages below .200 in 2010 (.196) and 2012 (.197), while his 94 OPS+ in 2012 was the lowest of his career. Of course, it's been since 2008 that Pena had a BABIP anywhere close to league-average. Pena's BABIP:

2008: .298
2009: .250
2010: .222
2011: .267
2012: .264

In April 2012, Pena had an OPS of .900. And then Evan Longoria got hurt and he (as well as the rest of the Rays) went in the toilet. He wouldn't post an OPS over .640 until September, when he bounced back for an .853 OPS. 

So that's low, but it's also a four-year trend. We'll spend more time looking at Pena over the next few months because, you know, what else are we gonna do? But here are some takeaways:

1. The Astros are getting Pena CHEAP. Obviously his market was depressed because of 2010-2012, but Pena made $27.3m in those years. The Cubs and Rays signed him to fairly high-priced one-year deals in 2011 and 2012, which would indicate that he's worth seeing if he can recapture some old magic. Maybe he can, maybe he can't. But if he can't, it's less than $2m down the toilet, or what Carlos Lee would have made in about 20 games.

2. He does add power to the lineup, something of which the Astros don't have much. Justin Maxwell has some pop, but we still don't know if he can do it over the course of a full year.

3. Bye bye, Lance Berkman. Whether his knees couldn't hold up, or he and the Astros couldn't agree on a deal...we don't know (Update: Berkman is still undecided about playing in 2013). But Pena's going to DH, which means Berkman isn't. It also, thankfully, means that we won't have to get used to seeing Alfonso Soriano wearing the Tango Blast.

4. Pena knows the AL. I've been harping on this more than is probably helpful, but the Astros will need some guys who have actually faced American League teams. Pena has spent 11 of his 12 seasons in the American League.

5. Jon Singleton will likely not open the season with the Big league club. Wallace and Pena will split 1B/DH duties, and give Singleton a little Triple-A seasoning. But let's say that Pena defies expectations and has a solid first-half of the season. If the Astros are 120 games out of first place by mid-July, Pena's low-risk contract is easily tradeable for...yes, more prospects.

6. Someone has to get outrighted off the 40-Man Roster to make room, but don't expect this to be the last deal of the off-season. All this can be thrown out the window with Luhnow's next move. (UPDATE: Mickey Storey has been Designated for Assignment).